In Muay Thai, practitioners and combatants all have their favorite technique.
From the flying knee to the roundhouse, the flying elbow to the leg kick, depending on your style, what works best for you will commonly be your first weapon of choice. After all, the “Art of 8 Limbs” offers fighters an abundance of weaponry inside the ropes. The varied attacking techniques of the sport have seen Muay Thai become an integral part of mixed martial arts.
But behind many of the flashy knockouts and devastating strikes is one of the most underrated techniques in the sport: the push kick (also known as the teep). Conversely, what has probably kept many fighters from being knocked out or in a position to avoid shots, in general, is their frequent use of the push kick.
It can be the way to set up an attack or a trusted method to prevent an opponent from setting up his. As space and distance are both integral to landing strikes in Muay Thai, the push kick can often be the easiest way to affect both, in an attacking or defensive sense.
Many of the greatest fighters in the history of Muay Thai frequently relied on push kicks. As such, it would be incredibly rude of us not to explain why. First things first, let’s look at why this kick is an integral tool for a smart Muay Thai fighter.
The Importance of a Push Kick
If you are a fighter, you will understand the importance of managing distance.
Working your way inside an opponent requires distance management. Staying out of the range of an opponent’s shots requires distance management. Throughout a fight, your finding your range and properly timing your shots will depend on how close you are to your target. No target is made the same, however, which makes fighting an exercise in solving a puzzle as much as it does simply kicking someone in the head.
No puzzle is made the same, either. Your opponents will come in different styles; some will be more aggressive, while others will be more cerebral and cautious. Some will be tall and with a reach advantage, while others will be smaller, stockier, and with a shorter reach.
In boxing, finding a way to attack and defend against fighters of all kinds often comes down to the jab. In Muay Thai the jab is also important, but the teep can be your best friend. This is a tool which can disrupt the harmony of your opponent and keep them from getting in too close.
It can also be the precursor to a fight-ending strike. In fact, it can be the fight ending strike.
The Different Types of Push Kick
Of course, there are different versions of the push kick which you will need to know about.
The Front/Straight Push Kick
The most basic, bread and butter push kick. You can use this teep in an offensive or defensive setting. Much like a jab in boxing, this push kick can help a fighter find his way inside an opponent’s guard, or outside of the range where they can get to you.
Make no mistake: if landed correctly – or used as a counter to an opponent who is rushing in – you can potentially cause significant damage to a fighter with this kick. At worst, you can send him flying back a few steps. You can also throw a front/straight push kick with either the lead or rear leg.
The lead leg push kick is excellent when looking for a quick and sharp attack. As there is no requirement to switch or pull back, it can be executed without the opponent having any time to prepare for it.
The rear leg push kick is a technique which many fighters will use following a roundhouse feint. It is not as quick and “jabby,” but is certainly more powerful and potentially more devastating. When your opponent is expecting a roundhouse – and has set his defense accordingly – this shot can really catch him off guard.
Side Push Kick
A powerful push kick and one which has become almost synonymous with arguably the greatest Nak Muay of all time, Samart Payakaroon.
Thrown with the lead leg, this kick is excellent as a long-range shot. The power is generated from slightly turning the hip and extending the leg through the target with forwarding motion. Landing a side push kick can be akin to bursting through a wooden door with a battering ram.
Slapping Push Kick
This type of teep is great for stopping an aggressive opponent from charging in.
Although it rarely used in Muay Thai, it serves many purposes. The technique itself can be hard to predict. The fighter throwing the kick must lift his entire leg up as high as they can, in order to slap or stomp the sole of their foot on the desired target area. The most common target areas will be the head, chest, and shoulders.
Jumping Switch Push Kick
The jumping switch push kick looks incredible when thrown correctly.
Muay Thai legend Saenchai is a particular advocate of this technique and has used it frequently throughout his stellar career. It is not a simple kick to execute, as it requires a high skill level, expert timing, and a technical understanding which only comes with years of practice.
It is, however, a kick which can catch an opponent cold, given the switching movement. A smart fighter will take advantage of this and feint a kick before switching to the other leg.
Given that it can completely disarm an opponent, while being strong enough to knock them out, in some cases, the push kick is an incredible defensive weapon.
An opponent’s attack is only as strong as their ability to land shots. Using teeps can keep them at a safe distance while systematically breaking them down, mentally and physically.
There are fewer tools in a Nak Muay’s toolbox as useful as the push kick. For fighters looking to become as defensively impregnable as possible, the push kick is crucial and should not be underestimated.